In a world of smart phones, video games, and online streaming, books can often be overlooked. But one local group is striving to promote literacy and share the joys of reading with the community.
Altrusa of Highland County is a chapter of a much larger international non-profit organization that is committed to community service and literacy. According to members Jane Tissot and Janet Butler, one of the ways Altrusa has worked to achieve those goals locally is with their Little Free Libraries.
Altrusa has installed seven Little Free Libraries since 2012. The first two were installed on Oct. 27 of that year as a part of Altrusa’s “Make a Difference Day” project, Tissot and Butler said.
Since then, the program has grown, with a main goal of “getting books to Highland County residents of all ages and encouraging them to read.”
They summarized the program, saying they like the ‘Take a book, leave a book idea.’”
In the libraries are “books for both adults and children,” Tissot added. “Borrowers are able to examine the books and take one or several with them to read … The books do not need to be returned, although they can be. The (Little Free Libraries) are checked regularly by Altrusa members and (they) are filled when needed.”
Tissot and Butler said that the Little Free Libraries highlight the “importance of reading” in the community. They added that, while there are four public libraries in the county, the Little Free Libraries are located in other areas and can be accessed at any hour of the day.
They also said that Altrusa is continuing to add more Little Free Libraries in the community. The next one is in the planning stages at the YMCA in Hillsboro, they said.
And, in the nearly five years since the first libraries were installed, Altrusa has seen the program bring the community together.
“Someone calling and saying they have boxes of books they would like to donate is a great joy,” Tissot said.
They described several instances of generosity, including donations of: 35 boxes by a school teacher who was moving from the area; 15 boxes that were left in a home to be donated to a worthy cause; hardback books from a “great home library;” and over a hundred books from a local resident that had been written by her own father.
“We really appreciate our community,” Butler said.
The Little Free Libraries are located in Hillsboro, Greenfield, Mowrystown, and Sinking Spring, as well as in the Rocky Fork Lake and Paint Creek areas.
Hillsboro’s is at the corner of East Main Street and South High Street. Tissot and Butler said that the library also has a plaque in memory of Altrusa charter member Michelle Ross who passed away in February 2013.
In Greenfield, the Little Free Library is located on the east side of the city hall building and is painted to look like that structure.
Also painted to resemble the building where it is located is the library in Mowrystown. It looks like a church and is located on the east side of the Mowrystown Presbyterian Church.
The library in Sinking Spring also resembles a church. It is located on SR 41 by the Sinking Spring Community Church.
In the Rocky Fork Lake camp store, the library is painted like a red canoe. The store is open during the summer months. Also in that area is a library at Rockhold Bank on North Shore Drive. That library is decorated with sailboats.
Finally, the library at Paint Creek is in the park’s nature center. It resembles a silver canoe.
The local Altrusa chapter was formed in 1994 and has aimed to promote literacy, not only through the Little Free Libraries, but also through scholarships, mini-grants for teachers, and by providing books for elementary classrooms.
Funds for these many projects come from the Altrusa Book Sale, their Quarter Auction, and from their volunteering in the Amazing Race. Tissot and Butler also said that the Hillsboro Elks Club and the Round Up Program of South Central Power Company have both provided grant monies that have contributed to Altrusa’s literacy projects.